Today we started our day at Shikina En, Royal Gardens. This area was heavily damaged during the war, but was reconstructed to its splendor. The quiet gardens and pond gave the feeling of going back nto time as you could imagine the royal family relaxing and entertaining their guests with the court music playing int the background. It seemed as if this was a much needed visit as it took us away from the hustle and bustle, and just gave our minds and spirits time to reflect and relax.
We then went to one of the highest points in Shuri. Bin nu Utaki is a sacred site that is mentioned in many songs and dances, such as Kudai Kuduchi. This Utaki was visited especially after returning from a journey. Here we came to pray and give thanks for having a safe journey back “home”, and to also look at the restored gate and walls that was done through the help of Uruma seinenkai of Hawai`i. This was another connection to our Hawai`i ancestors that helped us to realize the concern and love for Okinawa by our issei, although they were separated by the vast Pacific Ocean. It made us think of how we need to keep our connection like them.
We then left for a special visit to Matayoshi Kanjeeku. matayoshi san is the only silversmith left that makes traditional LooChoo accessories through his lineage of 6 generations. He has been designated as a National Living Treasure, by the Japanese government, and strives to preserve and pass on his knowledge of his art and the history and stories behind it. He is very concerned that he does not have a apprentice that will continue his work. He is 81. Matayoshi san gave us very good insights and heartwarming stories, as well as a message to keep our traditions alive through passing things on and remembering our past. This was one of our most valuable visits which connected us to LooChoo’s great art of making hairpins, “jifa”, and jewelry.
After lunch we continued to a wholesale folk craft shop and then to the Okinawa Prefectural Museum where we saw exhibits on history and traditional arts. Our day ended with a performance at Naha Tenbusukan, given to us by Atsuko Tamagusuku Sensei and her students. Norman and Eric also participated in the performance, but the highlight was when we called up Brent and Mana from our group to dance Hatoma Bushi. The crowd went crazy and the heeshi from everyone was almost deafening ad the boys danced. Many of the Okinawa audience cried as they watched, and said that they could see the love for the culture and how much the boys want to do the best they can to represent Okinawa. Couple of the audience we met after, said they were embarrassed that Okinawans here don’t give off the kind of energy and dont dance form the heart like Brent and Mana. It was really something to experience and also a great experience for the guys.